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From: The Socialist issue 801, 5 March 2014: Pay us a living wage now!

Search site for keywords: Labour - Union - NHS - Government - Atos

Union question time - Labour has no answers

James Evans

I went to a recent Communication Worker's Union Question Time in Manchester. The panel included Michael Kane, newly elected Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Kevin Maguire from The Mirror who had written an article calling on the unions to break the link with Labour.

All the panel other than Maguire endorsed the individualised membership recommended in the Collins review and refused to defend unions' right to have a collective voice in the party. Most trade unionists present were angry at this.

When I spoke I said I'd had a period of unemployment, even though I was promised that university would open the door to success.

Under Labour, there was a push towards getting people into higher education. But there are not enough jobs, 40% of graduates are now unemployed six months after graduating, and an average of 80 people apply for every graduate job.

I asked what a Labour government would do about this. A Labour councillor said they would guarantee work after two years of unemployment, but I defy anyone to live on 55 a week for two years.

The audience were angry at Atos for making millions from taxpayers by judging people's capacity for work.

The panellists tried to join in on their ATOS-hating. But under the last Labour government Atos earned substantial sums of money, including a 300 million contract from NHS Scotland.

After the meeting I told Michael Kane that I had seen an ambulance with the logos for Arriva train operator and the NHS which made me feel sick as I hate seeing public services being sold off. Kane replied: "Well you can't blame the government for handing out that contract."

So a member of the party that set up the NHS does not oppose the private sector making money off patients' needs.

The evening was meant to showcase "union friendly" Labour candidates but it showed Labour is not a party for working people.

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